I was lucky to be placed in a great school that gives me some flexibility with my schedule. I was able to switch some of my classes on a Friday in order to be able to take an early night bus and travel South to Puerto Madryn, Patagonia. Staying 3 days in town is a minimum – there are a lot of day trips that can be done from the city center, as well as many outdoor activities straight in town (kayak, windsurfing, kitesurfing, snorkelling, scuba diving, etc.).
My budget being quite small at the moment, I have decided to do only one day tour to Punta Tombo. It was my life goal of the week-end to take a selfie with a penguin, and I knew it was the end of the sighseeing season for Magellanic Penguins. I will post the details of that excursion on a second post, as it was an experience in itself!
Puerto Madryn is known to be the most lively city in coastal Patagonia. It is situated straight on the beach, just South of the Peninsula Valdes. The Peninsula is known for its wildlife, with orcas, whales, penguins, sea lions, seals, elephant seals, birds… definitely an area that would have made Darwin dream (which it actually did, as he spent a lot of time in Argentine Patagonia). In some areas, even close to town, the whales come to feed off the marine wildlife and can be observed in high season meters and feet away from the shore (I have seen videos of orcas jumping out on the beach to catch a sea lion and heading back in the water after… that would be an impressive moment!). Puerto Pyramides is a smaller town just at the entrance of the Peninsula Valdes park (260 pesos entrance fee) – I did not get to visit it this time as I chose to stay in town on my last day.
Walking along the sea side on the side walk in itself can take you a few hours – I took a walk on the beach towards the South of the town, and visited Punta Cuevas, which is the area where the first immigrants arrived in Madryn in the 1800s. At low tide, take a minute to walk down on the beach and follow the rock formations of the cliffs – you will find many natural caves that you can visit, some of them deeper into the cliffs than others. If you only walk on the paved road, you will have no idea of what is hiding under your feet!
About 3km away from the center of town on the paved road going South, you will find the EcoCentro, where you can visit (120 pesos) the exhibits on whales and marine wildlife in the area. It opens at 3pm. I was literally alone in the museum for the entire time of my visit, which really allowed me to relax and read about the history of the area and its wildlife.
On my last day we rent some bikes and rode the 35km round-trip to Punta Loma, where there is a colony of sea lions right off the cliff. There is a small visitor center that was closed as I was visiting off season. The bike ride itself is an activity in itself. It was at time challenging (I am definitely NOT a biker), but if you are up for a few hills, some gravel roads and some incredible patagonic landscapes, I would recommend doing the trip! It cost 200 pesos per person to rent a newer bike (Argentine standards…) for 6hrs, which was plenty of time to do the trip (took us about 4h30 including our break). The ride up to Punta Loma is more challenging, but the way back is quite lovely, as you end up going down the small but constant elevation gain you took on the way there.
I was staying for the week-end at La Tosca Hostel. I would definitely recommend it. It was a small but very friendly hostel. It was low season, so I was lucky and had almost a 6 bed dorms to myself on the Friday night. It got busier on the week-end, but everyone was on a great travel vibe, and it is definitely not a party hostel. Good thing is – wine sharing in the lounge with other travellers, playing cards and just hanging out seemed to be the vibe of the week-end for most of us staying there… perfect for me!
Keep reading in the next few days for my post about my encounter with lovely penguins!